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Chance in Evolution$
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Grant Ramsey and Charles H. Pence

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226401744

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226401911.001.0001

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Does Darwinian Evolution Mean We Are Here by Chance?

Does Darwinian Evolution Mean We Are Here by Chance?

(p.122) Chapter 5 Does Darwinian Evolution Mean We Are Here by Chance?
Chance in Evolution

Michael Ruse

University of Chicago Press

Before Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859, the automatic assumption of evolutionists was that the process leads upwards to humankind, the climax of history. Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection throws considerable doubt on this happy story, because it is relativistic and (with the coming of Mendelian genetics) the building blocks of evolution are chance, in the sense of not appearing according to need. The past 150 years have seen a series of attempts to show that humans must evolve, either because of or in the face of natural selection. Darwin himself, and following him in recent years Richards Dawkins, favored a kind of “arms race,” with adaptations improving as lines of organisms try to outrun competitors. He thought this would lead to intelligence. Another gambit involving selection, favored by paleontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Simon Conway Morris, suggests that there are ecological niches waiting to be occupied and that selection pushes organisms to find them. Culture is one such niche and if humans had not found it, another line of organisms would. A third strategy, non-Darwinian in the spirit of Herbert Spencer, argues that complexity and hence humankind just comes as part of natural chance happenings, randomly.

Keywords:   Charles Darwin, evolution, natural selection, humankind, chance, arms race, ecological niche, randomness

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